In what was a close encounter at Villa Park on Monday night, West Ham United looked to have a good chance of nicking the three points – until Arthur Masuaku’s second-half red card changed their approach.
With the score tied at 0-0, the Frenchman was handed a harsh-looking second yellow card by referee Mike Dean in the 67th minute, leading to him getting his marching orders.
Losing one of his full-backs left manager Manuel Pellegrini in a bit of a predicament, and he decided the best option at that point was to replace Felipe Anderson – who is arguably the visitors’ most dangerous attacking player – with experienced defender Pablo Zabaleta.
It was a move that worked from in terms of keeping it tight as they held onto a point and a clean sheet, but from an attacking sense it ultimately killed off any threat they could have in the final 20 minutes or so, and it didn’t go down well with some of the London Stadium faithful on Twitter.
While it wasn’t necessarily wrong to play it safe by bringing the Argentine on, taking his South American teammate off was a mistake.
The 26-year-old has shown throughout his time with the Irons – he has 10 goals and seven assists in 45 appearances according to Transfermarkt – that he can produce that piece of magic in the final third and be a threat on the counter-attack, and there was a good chance West Ham could have utilised that even when they went down to 10 men on Monday.
The former Manchester City manager should have taken Manuel Lanzini off instead, before deploying a 4-3-1-1 formation which saw Declan Rice, Mark Noble and Pablo Fornals stay deeper in midfield, and Anderson given something of a free role off of target man Sebastien Haller.
At least with that system they would have still posed some sort of goal threat, because as it was Pellegrini essentially settled for a point as soon as the red card came out of Dean’s pocket, rather than taking a risk and trusting in his team.